Teens at a Pennsylvania high school used their punishment from last week’s student walkout to stage another anti-gun violence protest over the weekend.
At least 225 Pennridge High School students were given detention last week after they left their classes and staged a mass walkout in support of National School Walkout Day, a country-wide protest to honor the 17 victims of the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Protestors used the walkout to call for tighter gun control measures that could deter future mass shootings.
Pennridge disciplined each of the 225 students who took part in the walkout by giving them detentions, a punishment that was outlined ahead of the demonstration. According to school district superintendent Jacqueline Rattigan, students had been given the option of attending a silent, 17-minute long assembly — one minute for each Parkland victim — where they could watch a slideshow presentation honoring those killed. “We are proud of the way our students conducted themselves during today’s silent Remembrance Assembly,” Rattigan said in a statement last week. “It was a moving experience for those who participated.”
On Saturday, the first group of students involved in the walkout were scheduled to serve detention. Rather than sitting in their assigned seats, however, the 46 teens decided to use their detention to stage another protest, taping the names of Parkland victims to their shirts and sitting silently in a circle with arms linked, a small pile of flowers between them. Hoping their protest might find a national audience, the students tagged all their social media posts with the phrase #Pennridge225.
— Anna Sophie Tinneny (@annatinn) March 17, 2018
46 of the #Pennridge225 served the first Saturday morning detention today. Pennridge students wore Parkland victims’ names and sat, arms linked, for the whole dentention. A modern sit in. pic.twitter.com/sCuLxo9jE2
— Pennridge225 (@NeverAgainPenn) March 17, 2018
High school senior Anna Sophie Tinneny, who organized the protest, said she did so in the spirit of past civil rights leaders.
“It was disappointing that our school teaches us to be like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. — people who stood up for what they believed in. And they weren’t going to let us do the same,” she told The Morning Call on Sunday evening.
Fellow senior Jayson Badal agreed criticizing the school’s decision to discourage student protests. “Honoring the victims without trying to effect change is not good enough,” Badal told the newspaper. “It doesn’t do them justice.”
The Pennridge protests come just ahead of the planned March for Our Lives protest in Washington, D.C. on March 24, when student activists and demonstrators from across the country will “demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools today,” march organizers wrote on their website.
“We cannot allow one more child to be shot at school. We cannot allow one more teacher to make a choice to jump in front of a firing assault rifle to save the lives of students. We cannot allow one more family to wait for a call or text that never comes,” the group’s mission statement reads. “Our schools are unsafe. Our children and teachers are dying. We must make it our top priority to save these lives.”
In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, attempts to pass legislation aimed at preventing further gun violence have been mostly shut down, with both the White House and state lawmakers pursuing measures aimed at arming teachers or buffing up campus security instead. More recently, President Trump assembled a school safety commission led in part by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, which will study several topics, including a rating system for violent video games and entertainment. The president’s commission, first announced earlier this month, notably excludes any proposal to study gun violence as a broader topic and backtracks on Trump’s previous promise to raise the minimum purchasing age for assault-style rifle sales.
Already, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are wary that anything will come of the new commission, which is expected to make recommendations to the White House in the next year.
“It is my sincere hope that this commission will be more than mere window dressing, a delaying tactic, or a platform for ineffective, NRA-approved proposals that place the interests of the gun lobby above the protection of our families,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) wrote in a blistering letter to DeVos over the weekend.
DeVos, who has come under fire for her lax response to student activists’ concerns, defended the commission on Friday, writing in a CNN op-ed, “There are best practices that are working today in communities across this country, and our commission will spotlight them and disseminate them to every school. This will not be another 18-month Washington commission that yields an unreadable and unactionable report.”